Well this was bound to happen.
Fried food is the food of my soul. Fried chicken is the way to my heart. I like fried chicken in buckets, fried chicken in nugget form, and fried chicken in the Nashville Hot style, but put it on a roll with some pickles and mayo and we've reached B&G nirvana.
When I was in college, we got our first fast food chain on campus. I was from the north, and I had never heard of this particular chain, but all my southern brethren were EXCITED. I was mostly confused as to why a fast food chain serving delicious fried chicken sandwiches and crazy good fried chicken breakfast biscuits, and located on a college campus, was not open on Sundays. Sundays were the prime fried food days of my college career. Later on, I discovered that I was not a huge fan of how the owners of this chain spent their expendable cash, and eating there became morally squicky. But those sandwiches were delicious. TO THE KITCHEN!
I love pickles almost as much as I love fried stuff, so I wanted to pump up the pickle flavor as much as possible. Rather than brining in buttermilk, I brined boneless chicken thighs in pickle juice. Pick your favorite. I like Claussen and that's what I always have in the house but I have had fried chicken brined in Vlasic as well, and it was mighty tasty. The difference in flavor is noticeable, so use whatever you like best and brine away. (Fun tip, when I finish the pickles I keep the juice in the jar in the fridge for the perfect fried chicken situation. I like to be always at the ready.) I brine the thighs for at least six hours, and up to 24.
The crust is just your basic flour and cayenne mixture, with a little drizzle of pickle juice to give it some good clumps that make the final product really crispy and craggy. I fry them in my cast iron pan in canola oil heated to 375 degrees for 8-9 minutes, flipping them several times.
Once they are fried, I toast the roll in a little butter, add some mayo and some sliced pickles and voila! A really good, basic fried chicken sandwich with a lot of pickle-y goodness! I like Martin's Potato Rolls, but you can use whatever your favorites are, or even make your own!
Pickle-Brined Fried Chicken Sandwiches (makes 6)
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 cups of your favorite pickle juice
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
3-4 cups canola or other high smoke point oil for frying
2 tbl butter for toasting rolls
Your favorite pickle slices
Special Equipment: Heavy-duty high sided frying pan, like cast iron and a deep fry thermometer
Submerge the chicken thighs in the pickle juice so they are completely covered. Refrigerate at least 6 hours, no more than 24.
When you are ready to serve the sandwiches, preheat the oven to 200 degrees (if you are going to need to fry the chicken in batches.) Place a metal cooling rack over a cookie sheet and set aside. Heat oil in a cast iron or other high-sided heavy pan, over medium-high heat until it reaches 375 on a deep-fry thermometer.
While oil is heating, mix flour, salt and cayenne in a shallow bowl. Sprinkle three tablespoons of the pickle brine over the flour mixture, and combine with a fork to form some lumps. Remove chicken thighs from the brine, and coat completely in the flour mixture.
When oil is at temperature, add as many of the thighs as fit in the pan without overcrowding. I can fit three to four in my 10 inch pan comfortably, and fry for 8-9 minutes, flipping after the first minute, and then again a couple more times during frying, until the chicken thighs are brown, crispy and cooked through. Remove the chicken from the oil, and let rest and drain the waiting cooling rack. If you are cooking the chicken in batches, place the first batch in the warmed oven to stay warm while you cook the second batch.
When all the chicken is fried, melt half the butter over medium low heat in a large frying pan, open the rolls and toast the inside in the butter until warm and browned. Melt the remaining butter and repeat with the rest of the rolls.
When the rolls are toasted, slather on the mayo to your liking, top with pickle slices and a fried chicken thigh and ENJOY!